Just Say No To Shelfware
May 22, 2012

Julie Craig

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My latest research found that only about 65% of "commercial enterprise management products" purchased are currently in use -- the rest are languishing on a shelf somewhere, just waiting to be dusted off and deployed.

Here are a few tips to ensure that your purchases don't end up in a back room collecting dust:

1. Define your requirements

From my perspective, this is the number one most important consideration when purchasing APM tools and here's why: The definition of "APM" varies from user to user, from analyst to analyst, and from vendor to vendor. Most vendors define the acronym in a way that highlights its specific tool portfolio. Across vendors, even the simplest technologies -- such as synthetic transaction tools -- vary considerably in terms of ease of use, applications monitored, and ongoing administration requirements.

So, although requirements definition may be far less interesting than "kicking the tires", first define exactly what you want the tool to do.

Will it be used to monitor applications for internal users, external users, or both?

Do you need to monitor web applications or tiered applications?

Do you need to be able to drill down to code level or is it OK to monitor at the operational level?

Do you need to be able to monitor the mainframe as part of the end-to-end transaction?

Lack of requirements translates to lack of use, once products are in-house.

2. Try before you buy

Nothing reveals the functions and features of a product like a trial run. Again, proofs of concept can be time-consuming, but they enable you to determine very quickly whether or not a given product addresses all requirements.

Many vendors offer free downloads or cloud-enabled software for this purpose, and most also offer free support during the evaluation phase. Take advantage of all the freebies available BEFORE the purchase to ensure that you don't find out -- too late -- that a product does not fit your needs.

3. Invest in up-front training

Another factor contributing to the "shelfware syndrome" is lack of training. Even simple products -- such as log analyzers and synthetic transaction monitors -- have a wealth of hidden features "under the covers". In my interviews with end users of even wildly successful APM solutions, most stressed the fact that "the more you put into learning the tool, the more you get out of it."

If you're investing $100K in a tool, go the extra mile and spend $5K on training. It can make the difference between letting $100K "go down the drain" as shelfware OR getting $200K of value from a product that cost half that much.

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Julie Craig from EMA Joins The BSM Blog

Julie Craig is Research Director for Application Management at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA)
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